UPDATE: I have not received any further response/complaint from The Verge. Considering I have resolved the complaints they submitted to Microsoft in last app update and received their commitment to support the app previously (as explained below), I have published the app again in store. If The Verge has any feedback or want to discuss anything, I welcome them to reach out to me. You have my commitment to work with you to make this app serve your readers in a way which works for everyone.
The Verge is one of my favorite tech news sites. There are always controversies around who likes which product or tech company but overall, The Verge seems on point most of the time. I read that site so much that I created an app for myself as their mobile site isn’t good. Later when I shared the app in The Verge reader community, a lot of folks liked the app and asked if I could add more features. Now, adding features and making an app worth using takes some serious efforts and commitment.
One thing I learned by watching apps come and go is that one shouldn’t develop an unofficial app unless the service has public APIs or you are partnering with the team who owns the service.
- First, building a brand and service which people want to use takes your sweat and blood. As a 3rd party developer, you shouldn’t use someone else’s work to succeed.
- Second, even if you don’t agree with the first point, you can, and you will, be forced to remove the app and your efforts will be wasted.
But if you are partnering, that is really a worthy gig. I absolutely loved working with the amazing team at Khan Academy to develop apps for Windows 8 and Windows Phone
Considering these points, I reached out to the Vox Media (owner of The Verge) engineering team to see if they wanted to partner. They loved the app but after their internal discussion, they chose not to collaborate in any way. Their ask was to not use The Verge branding and they wouldn’t have problem with the app. I was bummed but fully respected their decision and started a thread in The Verge forums to get ideas on a new name.
In this same thread, Nilay confirmed that they love the app and want me to continue improving it. Not only that, this was repeated in their weekly verge cast video. As long as the app didn’t use their branding, they would fully support it. This thread has been removed from the forums now. In fact, The Verge has been removing or locking threads which discuss this app in their forums.
With that confirmation, I started adding features in the app. It took hundreds of hours from my weekends and nights but the results were very satisfying, just look at the reviews posted by users. With the most recent update which includes support for adding comments, app is at par with The Verge’s official apps on other platforms.
Yesterday, I received email from Microsoft Store team that The Verge has submitted content infringement complaint against the app for using their name and logo. This is something I had agreed to fix but didn’t change yet so I unpublished the app from store and updated the app to not use there branding. It seems the feature to include app signature while commenting also caused some frustration for the verge staff but they never reached out to me to resolve that or asked to remove the feature.
Once their reported issues were fixed, I reached out to Vox Media lawyer to make sure they are ok with the fixes I have made. They were happy to know that I had removed their branding but, surprisingly, also mentioned that they don’t want this app to distribute their copyrighted content. I explained that this app is like any other thousands of news reader apps which allow users to read content from sites. I am not taking their content and re-publishing or distributing it. They don’t seem to agree with it even though they mentioned that an app like Feedly is ok. How is my app different from Feddly, they don’t mention that. Why are they doing this, I don’t know. But agreeing to supporting the app and now pulling that support is beyond me. It has definitely caused a lot of stress for me.
I have again reached out to their lawyer as well as other folks in their leadership team. I am hoping to hear from them so that this can be resolved and app can be made available in store again. Technically, I have fixed the issues they complained about and I am free to publish the app until they submit another complaint. There is no point in cat and mouse game though so I want to resolve this issue before making the app available again.
By the way, the update with new name and logo is already visible in the store. You can check it out using the deep link as app is not available in search results or lists.
Feel free to chime-in in comments or on twitter if you have feedback or want to share your support.